100,000 years ago, give or take a week, there were at least six of us Homo (humans) roaming the earth. Genus, that is. Homo Erectus, Homo Neander, Homo Denisovan, Homo Sapiens (that’s us) and a few others in the area around Indonesia and elsewhere. This all comes from Yuval Harari's 2015 book, Sapiens, which has been translated into 26 languages. No doubt we mingled, particularly with Neanderthal who may have been irresistible. Grubby ahead of their time. They did have bigger brains than us and were stronger. However we had one thing all the others lacked which has gotten us this far. We could hit a curve ball.
Or to put it another way, we, alone, could imagine. We could visualize what isn’t there and not only get nine men on the field to play a game but get hundreds of millions of us to believe in some construct such as religion or nationhood. In a famous softball game that never happened Homo Sapiens beat Homo Neanders. Thus did sticks and stones start evolving into Major League Baseball.
As an aside, one might wonder if Donald Trump has more Neanderthal in him than the rest of us. I would argue he has less since he can fantasize beyond the actual and call it truth. But I digress.
I can almost hear it. The thud of a ball going into a mitt, the crack of a bat, the infield chatter, Chuck easy, Baby. In a few days the Boys of Summer will be reporting for spring training in mid-winter hoping to play in the fall classic. They are men for all seasons. For me it is a way of setting my seasonal clock.
Rookies will astonish, veterans will disappoint or as Shakespeare put it when he was a sportswriter……
From hour to hour we ripe and ripe
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot.
New surgeries have restored otherwise wrecked careers. We’re getting close to bionic arms defying laws of physics throwing the ball at 104 mph. Baseball is the traditionalist’s sport where the scoreboard contains no clock and batters run counterclockwise back to pastoral America. Yet the game has changed in ways only fandom knows, too esoteric to elucidate.
The astonishment of baseball which has never left me is the measurement, the feet and inches between bases and the distance from pitcher to home plate. It seems to me divinely inspired. Another few inches plus or minus would change everything. Furthermore the velocity of the pitched ball appears miraculously to correspond to the bat speed of the current players. Some Homo Sapien had a vision.
Our Tweeter-In-Chief has decreed that there are to be only winners and losers. Baseball defies that commandment. The best hitters fail 70% of the time. Teams on top generally lose 60-70 games each season.
My guess is that Sapiens lost to Neanders more than once but eventually prevailed. Maybe it was our quilted loin-cloth uniforms that carried the day. Motley is the only wear.
It is as we like it. And thereby hangs a tale.